Meet the team behind The Way of the Raukura - A Parihaka Musical
The Way of the Raukura is an original NZ/Aotearoa stage musical about the 1881 Crown-led invasion of Parihaka. It is co-written and co-directed by Steve Worsley (nō Taranaki ahau), and Sarah Tahere (ko ngati Raukawa me ngati toa Rangatira oku iwi), whose song Under the Mountain sparked the vision for the show. With heartfelt and dramatic songs and a cast including both Pākehā and Māori, The Way of the Raukura relates a historical event that inspired international attention, and shaped race relations in New Zealand.
We had the privilege to sit down with the wonderful co-director Steve Worsley and choreographer Rereaute, hearing their insights, stories and what inspires them to write such a passionate story.
Introduce yourself and your arts practice.
Steve: I was raised in Taranaki, yet never taught the Parihaka story. After high school I moved to Otago University where I trained as a concert pianist, completing a Master's Degree in performing and composing music. I did further study with Ruth Nye of the Menuhin School in London. In The Way of the Raukura I share the overall directing with Sarah Tahere and I work closely on the music with the band and cast.
Ko Ika-nui-a-rauru toku Waka
Ko Mangatu toku Awa
Ko Maungahaumia toku Maunga
Ko Ngawari toku Marae
Ko Ngā Ariki Kaipūtahi toku Iwi
Ko Eruera Tamanui toku papa
Ko Māhuhu-ki-te-rangi toku Waka
Ko Kaipara toku Awa
Ko Tauwhare toku Maunga
Ko Whiti Te Ra toku Marae
Ko Ngāti Whātua ki Kaipara toku Iwi
Ko Valerie Noda toku mama
Ko Rongo-Mangaia toku tamaiti
Ko Rereaute Paia Mereana Waihokura Tamanui ahau
I am the choreographer for The Way of the Raukura Musical.
What’s your favorite thing about what you do?
Steve: I love seeing creative arts come to life, but I love it all the more when we can use them to tell a story of real significance. I also really love seeing young performers grow in their skills and confidence and being inspired by those more experienced. And I find songwriting and scriptwriting addictive – I have to stop myself, or life doesn’t happen!
Rereaute: Using dance as a tool to tell a story that is very close to my heart. With this musical, I have been able to merge everything I am passionate about; history, dance, justice, healing, and restoration.
What’s the hardest thing about what you do?
Steve: Finding funding for a show like this has been really challenging. Like most creative people I’d much rather spend my time being creative and developing shows. But if you have no funding, you have no show.
Rereaute: As a creative, I am transported to specific imagery through lyrics and music. That has been the most difficult thing with this musical as there are songs that are created to purposefully show the racist and violent attitudes of 1881. It is hard not to be pushed into a vortex of anger and sadness. Sometimes I really don't want to do it and even worse, have to teach it.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Steve: I’m immensely grateful that some highly experienced directors took the time to pass on to me what they had learned. The arts can be a cut-throat industry, so I had not expected that generosity of spirit. It made me want to be generous-spirited with others who are finding their way.
Rereaute: To be obedient to God, and with that obedience, you will be blessed beyond what you could imagine. In my case, I never dreamed that I would be in the position I am now, and I am truly honoured. In conjunction with that, though, I have had to believe that with God, all things are possible, and in my weakness, I am made strong through Him. With all my inadequacies that I felt being the choreographer for this musical, I had to trust that God would fill in the rest.
What’s the best show you’ve seen this year?
Steve: It’s pretty hard to beat a sold-out crowd at Eden Park all singing along with Billy Joel! He was my favourite songwriter in my teens and a key influence in my songwriting journey. While many performers today just pound chords on the keyboard, with Billy Joel, every note, chord arrangement, instrumental break and rhythmic pattern feels well thought. Like he’s found the best way to play it - not just any old way.
Who are your favorite artists/theatre companies/musicians etc. and why?
Steve: Oh my goodness, I really loved the TV series SMASH, which starts with the premise, ‘What if we made a musical about Marilyn Monroe?’ Brilliant music and a fun watch. I love big mainstream musicals like Hairspray and Les Miserables, but also love some of the incredible new musicals like Dear Evan Hansen and Come From Away. I think stage musicals are the ultimate form of entertainment. All the arts are employed, and it happens live, in front of you – unlike TV or movies which are pre-recorded.
Rereaute: Black Grace has always been my favourite dance company. I've admired them since I first learned of them in high school. When I attended dance workshops, I soon found that they were hardworking, their movements were highly physical, they required extreme fitness and were absolutely powerful. Neil Ieremia is a pioneer in his field. He saw a gap in the dance industry and decided that needed to change. I love it when he creates innovative dance works that challenge social justice issues and racism. He is a catalyst who provokes people in their way of thinking through dance.
Tell us about your upcoming project/show.
Steve: The Way of the Raukura brings to life a vital yet largely unknown part of our NZ/Aotearoa history. We have a stunning array of talent from all across Auckland. Yet what inspires me the most is how deeply the cast and Production Team have engaged with this story in the journey of creating it.
What can audiences expect from the project/show?
Steve: I think audiences will experience something beyond mere entertainment, that is heartfelt and has been life-changing to many of us. As with our debut season, there have been lots of tears – even from people who don’t normally show emotion - as the reality of this story strikes home. In a cast that is half Māori and half non-Māori, that is telling a story with racial themes, you simply can’t be unaffected. While it is a sad story, it is also an inspirational story of courage and hope.
Rereaute: I pray that we have audiences that come with an open heart and mind to be able to receive this story. I hope to provoke a change in attitudes, perspectives and actions, that will lead to healing and restoration in Aotearoa.